We as human produce an alarming amount of waste and honestly, it is threatening the survival of our planet. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that only 12 percent of plastic waste currently gets recycled as the rest goes to a landfill where it takes at least 1,000 years to decompose. A small Japanese town called Kamikatsu has a mission to become the country’s first zero waste city by the year 2020 to which they are well on their way.
Kamikatsu declared its no-waste ambition in 2003 after the town ended its practice of dumping trash into an open fire for fear of damaging the environment and townspeople. It now recycles about 80 percent of its trash. The town of 1,700 works together their zero waste goal. Each resident sorts their own trash and brings the cleaned and separated items to the local recycling center themselves. Initially people were hesitant about the change, but now it’s become a part of everyday life. One resident said, “If you get used to it, it becomes normal. Now I don’t think about it. It’s become natural to separate the trash correctly.”
At the waste collection center in Kamikatsu there are separate bins for different types of paper products, cans, and plastic bottles and caps, but that’s only handful of the 34 sorting categories. There are no garbage trucks, so each resident has to wash, sort, and bring their trash to the recycling center themselves.
The recycling facilities are managed by Kamikatsu’s Zero Waste Academy. This academy regularly hosts groups of visiting school children from all over. In recent years it has received a growing level of foreign visitors and organizations as well. An estimated 2,500 people visit Kamikatsu a year, inspired by its waste-free aspirations.